Saudi Arabia to relocate students from Canada

Riyadh (AFP) –


Saudi Arabia has suspended scholarships to Canada and will relocate students already there, state media said Monday, after the kingdom abruptly cut ties with Ottawa over criticism of its jailing of rights activists.

Riyadh, which suspended diplomatic relations with Canada on Monday, will "stop training, scholarship and fellowship programs" there, state-run Al-Ekhbariya television reported.

The government was also putting together an "urgent plan" to transfer students and interns already in Canada to other countries, it said.

The kingdom early Monday gave Canada's envoy Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what Riyadh slammed as "interference" in its internal affairs.

The decision came after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights activists detained in a new crackdown, including the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Badawi's wife and children currently live in Canada.

Ottawa said it was "seriously concerned" and was seeking "greater clarity" on the move, which was announced on Twitter by the Saudi foreign ministry.

More than 8,000 students from Saudi Arabia are enrolled in programmes in Canada, according to figures released by the official Saudi Press Agency in 2017.

These students, many of them studying medicine, are accompanied by more than 6,400 dependents.